Thoughts – Before Reading
Before I read the book I was wondering what the experience would be like. I knew roughly what it was about but I worried that I wouldn’t like it because it would be too stream of consciousness or even abstract for myself. So there was concern for me from the get go which is one of the reasons I did not buy it at BookPeople when I saw it. (A decision I am still ashamed of.) The cover looked interesting and the title was something that immediately caught my eye. Eventually, it was the fact that it was a gay coming of age story between a young boy and an older man that did it for me. Any story coming of age done right is lovely, but I don’t usually see it done like this and I was intrigued.
Thoughts – While Reading
OMFG! My heart!
That’s about all that can be said about that.
Thoughts – Post Reading
My life was consumed after I read the book. My world no longer turned for anything except to look for Oliver and Elio and then to turn into Elio myself and ask where my life went wrong and wonder where my Oliver is! But then I had to realize, right Tortie, you’re being crazy. These are story characters and need to calm down. So after realizing I am in fact not Elio looking for Oliver, I simply sat there and silently cried at the beautiful story that had consumed my life. It is one of the most invasive reads I have ever had in that I still cannot get over the story and how much it impacted me. Before I knew it, it had wormed its way into every part of my life and there was no getting it out.
I first came across call me by your name by Andre Aciman on a Goodreads search when I looking up queer fiction. It popped up and I tried finding it in my local public library. However, they did not have it and that was that. It wasn’t until my writing partner brought it up again that I remembered, ‘oh yeah, I wanted to read that book’ and it was upon her insistence that I moved it up on my list of reading priorities. I found it at another public library, after shamefully not insta-buying it at BookPeople, and when I began to read it I knew I was hooked.
A book that completely took over my mind, body, and soul, I couldn’t put it down. I read and re-read passage after passage; took copious notes but never enough and cried and sobbed as the story developed. A story about the summer that changed Elio for the rest of his life and his encounter with the man that would forever haunt him. This story speaks to all of us with a ‘could have been’ love story. If it had been another time, it would have worked. If it had been the right place, it would have worked. And this is the ultimate story that we know would have worked had it been the right time and the right place, but it wasn’t. A haunting and raw telling of the love story that could have been but never was and the ever present ghosts that keep telling you that he is still here.
The main characters in the story are Elio and Oliver told from Elio’s perspective. Immediately we know that Oliver has an impact on Elio and we quickly see just how present the new guest at his parent’s summer home is in Elio’s mind. A normal 17-year old boy with less social practice than most, Elio is shy, quiet, and introverted. That does not, however, keep him from longing for the charismatic Oliver’s attention. Free and easy-going, Oliver seems to be the complete opposite of Elio and he quickly comes to terms with the fact that Oliver will never see anything in an inexperienced kid like himself.
Poetic, intelligent and academic, the two bond over their love for music, literature and the arts and they quickly realize they are getting a little too close for comfort. Even though told completely from Elio’s perspective, the two characters grow into 3-dimensional and flawed characters that are so real, you can almost feel the book pulse with their life blood.
Put these two very real and raw hearts against one of the most honest backgrounds I’ve read and you get a story that is sometimes more alive than the deadpan humans ghosting around you. Alive with humor, sarcasm and humanity, the entire cast creates a world that you forget is fabricated out of ink and paper and when you resurface, you wonder if you really hadn’t just stepped off a beach in Italy.
Elio and Oliver are flawed. You won’t always like them and at times, I wanted to strangle them both. The supporting cast is inconvenient and overbearing at times for the two guys still testing their limits and you can’t help but smile at how genuine their concern is. You can almost bet that you are looking into a magic mirror and seeing an evening on the far side of the world in real time. Alive and vibrant, colorful, flawed and raw; even though they came into my life as paper and ink, they quickly became even more real than the person standing next to me in line for coffee.
The setting of the story was in Italy and Rome but firstly in Elio’s head. Before we see anything else we first must go through Elio’s memories and then to see the Italy and Rome that changed his life forever. Haunted by ghosts of a past he can never forget and loves to relive, the setting is always shrouded in an almost invisible gray veil of what could have been. There is a hint of sadness wherever we go because we know and he knows that it is not meant to be.
The bookstores and convenience shops seem to be abandoned buildings brought back to life by the vivid and obsessive memory of one that cannot let go. You never forget where you are or what the story is and the way we go through that summer and then life after Oliver adds an extra layer of bittersweet nostalgia that makes all those already memorable places singe into your mental eye – never to be forgotten.
The plot of the story is different than in most. There really is no plot save for the telling of a good story and you know how it all comes to pass long before you turn the page and Oliver is gone.
Despite having an unconventional plot line, there are subplots that wrinkle the perfect trajectory of the story. The book is not only a memory, it is also the fights and instances that shaped the rest of Elio’s life. So even though he recalls everything with smooth and vivid clarity, we get to peal away that very lacquered layer of fine oil to reveal the original beaten and battered wood that shaped him into the adult reliving the past.
From the get-go, the conflict of the book is ‘Does Oliver like me?’ and ‘How do I act around him to make sure I am doing it right?’ The conflict at its core is a young boy trying to figure out how to act around the guy that he likes. He’s trying to be mature so as to impress Oliver but he can’t help but be a spoiled child at times and he hates himself for it. Once the feelings are out in the open, there is the guilt of wondering if what he did was right or if maybe they shouldn’t have done it in the first place. And after Oliver leaves, it’s Elio trying to live with himself and the absence and hold Oliver left.
The constant throughout the book is that Oliver is part of the conflict in some manner or another and Elio is constantly struggling with his presence and lack thereof.
The resolution of the story was hardly a resolution at all. It was more of a ‘this is how life goes’ sort of ending that made me want to wail and cry at the top of my lungs and beg Mr. Andre Aciman to say it isn’t so! But it is. And I cried.
A real life story sort of an ending, it didn’t end the way I wanted it to but the way I knew it would from the first moment I read the very painful blurb. A haunting and exquisite story that will be with me for the rest of my life, I couldn’t have asked for a more emotionally taxing and stunning ride. Elio and Oliver will live on with me as the ghosts that haunt Elio to the very end. The hope he feels even 20 years after that fateful summer will forever leave me with tearful desire that Oliver, at the last moment of the last day before they parted for the last time called Elio by his name.